Though Saladin Ahmed’s ongoing Black Bolt series is, in the larger sense, a story about the Inhumans’ king escaping from an ancient super prison that’s hurtling through space, the comic has also spent a lot of time fleshing out parts of Black Bolt’s humanity that we seldom see because of his vow of silence.
In placing its titular character in a foreign setting where his electron-disrupting voice’s destructive powers don’t work, Black Bolt has given him the chance to actually speak in fuller, more complex sentences directly to other characters. The result? A much clearer characterisation of the subtler parts of his personality — more than we’ve seen in years. We know, for example, that Black Bolt isn’t exactly comfortable around children, and that he doesn’t understand why his going by “Black Bolt” (his actual name is Blackagar Boltagon) is silly as hell.
The more we see of Black Bolt’s human interactions with those around him, the more sharply Ahmed and series illustrator Christian Ward’s vision for him comes into focus. This week, Black Bolt opens with a reunion that the series would have been remiss not to dedicate an entire mini story arc to. Black Bolt and Lockjaw are back together.
It’s always been apparent that Black Bolt and his dog Lockjaw go way way back, but in issue #5, we see that the pair were literally born right around the same time and were destined to be lifelong friends. Much like his master, it turns out that Lockjaw was born specifically after extensive experimentation from Attilan’s Inhuman geneticists.
Soon after their births, Lockjaw and the infant Black Bolt meet and immediately have an affinity for one another. But as the then-prince and his dog bond, Black Bolt’s abilities trigger for the first time and presumably kill everyone around him save for Lockjaw, who faithfully returns to his new friend’s side despite the apparent danger.
No matter where Black Bolt’s adventures as the king of Attilan took him, Lockjaw would always know his scent and teleport to his master’s side anywhere throughout the galaxy. And now, after four issues, Lockjaw shows up to spring Black Bolt out of space gaol.
The fact that Black Bolt is about Black Bolt being wrongly imprisoned has always begged the question: “Well, why doesn’t Lockjaw just teleport him out?” The series knowingly counters that logic by presenting us with a question of morality. Black Bolt and Lockjaw could easily just leave the prison behind and head back to Attilan to deal with Black Bolt’s brother Maximus, who orchestrated his imprisonment.
But, Black Bolt reasons, leaving the prison immediately would mean abandoning the innocent friends he made there who are still trapped and being tortured by a sadistic gaoler. Trusting that Medusa can handle Maximus on her own back home, Black Bolt asks Lockjaw to join him for another adventure, and like the very good boy that he is, Lockjaw takes them back inside and sets out to help set the prisoners free.
In the course of making their way through the prison to set Black Bolt’s friends free, Lockjaw is caught in the crossfire of a battle and injured in a way that it seems Black Bolt’s never seen before. It drives him into a sort of controlled rage that again feels like a new kind of emotion for the character. He’s at once driven to kill the person responsible for hurting his best friend but also keenly aware of the responsibility he has to protect everyone else around him.
Though Lockjaw isn’t able to follow Black Bolt and his team of fellow gaolbroken heroes deeper into the prison to finish their mission, Black Bolt promises to come back from him and, though the scene is ripe for an emotional departure, it actually ends up being quite optimistic. Lockjaw’s always been there for Black Bolt not just out of a sense of loyalty, but because he’s known that Black Bolt would do the same for him in a heartbeat.
He’s not at all worried about Black Bolt coming back for him and we don’t have to be either.